INTERNATIONAL HUMANIST AND ETHICAL UNION
United Nations Human Rights Council, 29th Session (15th June – 3rd July 2015)
Interactive Dialogue with SR on Violence against Women
The IHEU would like to thank the Special Rapporteur for her informative and detailed report. We would like to concentrate specifically on the 2005 Maputo Protocol and its seminal provisions on medical abortion. The sanctioning of abortions in cases where, for example, continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother is, as Ms Manjoo notes, “crucial, considering the high maternal mortality rates linked to the practice of unsafe abortions.”
Whilst not broad enough in scope, the provisions are nevertheless notable and represent progress given that every year, approximately 4 million unsafe abortions are conducted in Africa, with about 40% of women undergoing such abortions dying as a result.
Despite this, of the 46 signatories of the Protocol, 12 still outlaw abortion altogether, with a further seven allowing it only in cases where a woman’s life is at risk from the pregnancy. As noted by the Special Rapporteur, “cultural, religious and other moral arguments against the termination of pregnancies […] challenge the effective realization of this right.”
One of these forces is US Christian evangelical groups attempting a “cultural colonisation” of Africa and opening offices to promote attacks on abortion, sexual, reproductive rights, population control and homosexuality.
In some countries a climate of intimidation exists where women seeking abortions are reported to the police by members of groups like the Council of Churches or Human Life International.
In attacking “the effective realization of this right” and facilitating intimidation and religious and cultural outrage against women seeking abortions, a number of African states are engendering a climate of violence against women; they are condemning them toward dangerous unofficial abortion, or to continue a pregnancy that endangers their health.
Violence against women is a human rights violation. We call on this Council to urge those states who have signed the Maputo Protocol, a legally binding human rights instrument, to fulfil their obligations and cease violating the rights of women in their countries.
'ID with SR on violence against women in Africa', Humanists International